NFC North: Rookie Watch

Each week, we’ll take a look at how the Detroit Lions rookies fared in the prior week’s game along with their overall stats and trends for the season.

Three weeks into the Detroit Lions’ season and some trends are starting to emerge among the team’s rookies.

Ziggy Ansah is continuing to trend upward, seeing more playing time and becoming a very productive member of a talented Lions defensive line. Joseph Fauria is making plays on offense with two touchdown receptions. And Larry Warford continues to make consistent plays on the offensive line.

It wouldn't be surprising, actually, to see both Ansah and Warford on the next rookie rankings by Mel Kiper.

Darius Slay has struggled, and was demoted against Washington to a special teams role. And Devin Taylor was inactive for the second time in three games.

Here’s a breakdown of how all the rookies have done this season, including Sunday:

Ansah
DE Ziggy Ansah (first round, BYU): Ansah continues to improve by the week. He had seven tackles -- the most of any Detroit defensive lineman -- and also sacked Robert Griffin III twice. He also forced a fumble. He pushed his season quarterback hit total to five as well. The percentage of snaps Ansah played dipped slightly Sunday against Washington as he took 62 percent of the Lions’ snaps at defensive end (48 of 77), down from 70 percent last week against Arizona. His number of snaps, though, remained somewhat consistent as he took 50 snaps against the Cardinals. But his role could expand even further with veteran end Jason Jones being out for the season.

CB Darius Slay (second round, Mississippi State): Not the trajectory the rookie has wanted. He was replaced in the starting lineup by veteran Rashean Mathis and didn’t play a single defensive snap. That’s down from 56 percent of snaps in the opener and 39 percent of the snaps against Arizona. His only action came on special teams, where he played 17 snaps. He’ll likely get a defensive shot again -- he has too much natural skill not to -- but for now he’ll have to work his way back into a rotation.

RG Larry Warford (third round, Kentucky): Another week, another good game for Warford. He played every snap for the third straight game and was part of an offensive line that allowed just one sack of Matthew Stafford. Statistically, there were some issues as Stafford was hit 10 times Sunday. Warford remains Detroit’s best offensive rookie.

DE Devin Taylor (fourth round, South Carolina): Taylor was inactive for the second time in three games Sunday. He may get a shot, though, with the season-ending injury to defensive end Jason Jones.

P Sam Martin (fifth round, Appalachian State): Not a bad performance by Martin. He punted six times for a gross average of 52.5 yards and a net average of 40.7 yards. He didn’t land any inside the 20-yard-line but had three touchbacks. At least one of those, Detroit coach Jim Schwartz indicated after the game, was by design. His net yards per punt dropped from last week against Arizona (50.2 yards per punt) but he had another good day for the most part. He did send one kick out of bounds, though.

RB Theo Riddick (sixth round, Notre Dame): With Reggie Bush out, Riddick saw his first true offensive action. He was targeted twice by Stafford, catching his first career pass for eight yards. He also rushed twice for negative-2 yards. He played in a career-high 15 offensive snaps and also saw action on 14 special teams snaps. Considering Bush is likely to return Sunday against Chicago, Riddick’s role for now might return to almost exclusively special teams. But he is clearly the third back behind Bush and and Joique Bell.

TE Joseph Fauria (undrafted, UCLA): The No. 3 tight end only caught one pass Sunday against Washington -- but it was a touchdown. And then he celebrated by unveiling a quick Justin Timberlake-NSync inspired touchdown celebration dance. He now has touchdowns in two of his first three career games. He played in a career-high 18 percent of Detroit’s offensive snaps (12 plays) and also played on eight special teams plays. He was targeted three times, the high among Detroit tight ends. This comes a week after he was not targeted once against Arizona.

A brief look at Fauria’s tracking:
  • Week 1 -- three targets, three catches, one touchdown, 14 percent of snaps (11 plays).
  • Week 2 -- no targets, no catches, 10 percent of snaps (six plays).
  • Week 3 -- three targets, one catch, one touchdown, 18 percent of snaps (12 plays).
OT LaAdrian Waddle (undrafted, Texas Tech): Waddle saw his first career action Sunday, playing on five special teams snaps.

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